Hailing from Morris Plains, NJ, rock guitarist John Warren “J” Geils Jr., took Top 40 radio by storm back in the early ’70s and ’80s with The J. Geils Band.
On April 11, the 71-year-old musician was found dead at his home in Groton Mass., WCVB 5 reported. According to police, “a preliminary investigation indicates Geils died of natural causes.”
Geils was studying to be a mechanical engineer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute when he formed what would become The J. Geils Band, in 1967, alongside bassist Danny Klein, harmonica player “Magic Dick” Salwitz, drummer Stephen Bladd, keyboard player Seth Justman and vocalist Peter “Wolf” Blankfield.
By 1970, the band had started to draw a noticeably large following in Massachusetts, before, ultimately, signing a deal with Atlantic Records. They saw instant Top 40 success, with their cover of The Valentino’s song, “Lookin’ for a Love,” however, didn’t really gain recognition until their third studio album, Bloodshot, which peaked at no. 10 on the Billboard 200 album charts in 1973.
J. Geils popularity skyrocketed in the ’80s, as the group started to see mainstream success with Love Stinks, and their best-selling album, Freeze Frame. The album hit no. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts in 1982, and featured such hit singles as “Centerfold,” “Freeze Frame,” and “Angel in Blue.”
At the height of the group’s commercial success, tensions between bandmates reached a breaking point, in 1983, when Wolf decided to leave the band to pursue a solo career.
The band broke up in 1985, after more than 16 years and 11 studio albums together. Following the break-up, Geils began restoring sports cars and even opened up his own store, KTR European Motorsports, in Ayer, Mass. Throughout the years, he reunited on-and-off with his old bandmates, and in 2011, The J. Geils Band were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
J. Geils Band Top 10 Classics
Needless to say, “Centerfold” is the band’s best-selling song of all-time, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list for six consecutive weeks. The song is a classic pop/new wave song about a man who wakes up one day to find his high school sweetheart appeared in a centerfold spread for an adult magazine and the internal conflict between loss of innocence and lust.
2. “Freeze Frame”
Blending elements of jazz, R&B, funk and new wave, the band redefined the pop genre in 1982, when Geils first invaded radio waves with their hit, “Freeze Frame,” the eponymously titled track from their best-selling album.
The catchy organ and jazz uptempo tune went on to become the second consecutive Gold certified track off the album, peaking at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1982.
3. “Make Up Your Mind”
“Make Up Your Mind” first appeared on The J. Geils Band’s fourth studio album, Bloodshot, and is produced by Bill Szymczyk, long-time record producer/sound engineer for The Eagles.
Szymczyk’s presence really helped them emphasize their American roots with a much more southern sound, tinged with blues guitar and soulful melodies, making this an essential for any J. Geils fans.
4. “Where Did Our Love Go?”
“Where Did Our Love Go,” was originally recorded in 1964, by Motown/Doo-Wop icons, The Supremes. In fact, it was the group’s first single to hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The J. Geils Band covered the track on their live ’76 album, Blow Your Face Out, which landed them at no. 68 on the charts, nearly six years before recording their most memorable album to date.
The song also was used by the English new wave group, Soft Cell, for their hit version of Gloria Jones’ classic, “Tainted Love.”
5. “One Last Kiss”
“One Last Kiss” was The J. Geil’s Band’s first single since their departure from Atlantic Records. After switching labels over to EMI, the band returned in 1973, with the release of their tenth studio album, Sanctuary, which strays away from their earlier, folksier sound, focusing much more on the progressive and hard rock side of things.
6. “Love Stinks”
Before making waves with Freeze Frame, The J. Geils Band got a taste of mainstream success came in 1980, with the single, “Love Stinks,” a nearly four-minute-long pop song all about loving someone, who does not love you back.
The song, written by Wolf and Justman, has been covered by the industrial metal band, Bile, and has appeared in several major motion pictures, including, Love Stinks, Mr. Wrong, Opie Gets Laid, and The Wedding Singer.
7. “Land of a Thousand Dances”
Written by Chris Kenner and Antoine “Fats” Domino, the song is famous for being the first to feature the “na, na, na, na, na” hook, which was added by Cannibal & the Headhunters on their 1965 cover.
The song was most notably performed by Wilson Pickett and is an R&B classic, which made it a “go-to” for the band’s 1982 live album, Showtime! It has been covered by Ted Nugent, Danny & the Memories and The Action, and was the inspiration behind Patti Smith‘s “Land (Part I-III).”
8. “Lookin’ For A Love”
“Lookin’ For A Love” was originally performed by the legendary doo-wop group, The Valentinos—brothers Friendly, Cecil, Harry, Curtis and Bobby Womack—and produced by Sam Cooke.
The J. Geils Band released their cover of the classic R&B/soul single on their 1971 album, The Morning After, and was the first single to land them on the Billboard pop music charts.
9. “Come Back”
The first single from their 1980 studio album, “Come Back,” has a much heavier rock sound than The J. Geil’s Band of the early ’70s.
Rolling Stone critic David Marsh praised the song, and for a greater part the album, which he attributes to keyboardist Seth Justman stepping in as the band’s musical director/producer.
“The result is that the group’s tendency to clownishness is tamed—particularly, vocalist Peter Wolf, who turns in a performance which is overall his strongest and straightest ever—while the excellence of Justman’s keyboard and J. Geils’ own guitarwork is highlighted.”
10. “Give It To Me”
One of the most popular tunes from The J. Geil’s Band’s early years, “Give it to Me” was the group’s first original composition to land on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, climbing as high as no. 30 in June 1973.